Not such a capital idea: MPs critique London site for research centre

The Commons Science and Technology Committee has questioned the decision to locate the new UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation in central London.

May 25, 2011

The committee’s report into the UKCMRI, published today, accepts the scientific case for the centre but describes the rationale for building it in the St Pancras area as “not overwhelming”.

It acknowledges the benefits that good transport links and proximity to universities and teaching hospitals will bring for the centre, which is to be renamed the Francis Crick Institute in July after the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.

But it notes that such advantages come at the price of increased construction costs and a site incapable of expansion. It also suggests that it might have been better to build the centre outside the South East.

Andrew Miller, chair of the committee, said, “We remain unconvinced that a project of such national importance should be located within the Golden Triangle [of London, Oxford and Cambridge], where a high concentration of research already exists.

“Every effort must now be made to ensure the whole of the UK receives the maximum benefits from the centre, and we intend to continue our close scrutiny of this project.”

The report also expresses sympathy for fears expressed by members of the local community, which includes pockets of deprivation, that it will derive no benefits from the project.

It suggests that the consortium behind the centre – the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust, Cancer Research UK, University College London, Imperial College London and King’s College London – use nearby land to construct housing, including social housing.

However, the committee said it was reassured to hear that the taxpayer would not be liable for any cost overruns in the construction of the project.

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